The vision of the Thomas E. Ricks Horticulture Demonstration Gardens came to light in the late 1970s as a dream of D. Kim Black, the Horticulture Department chair at the time. Ten acres were set aside on the south end of campus, and construction began in 1977. Since then, annual developments and arrangements by students in the Department of Applied Plant Science have made it one of BYU-Idaho’s finest locations on campus.
Fast forward to 2021, the Ricks Gardens serve a purpose central to a university at this time.
Since the pandemic, people around the world have taken up various hobbies or activities to fill their quarantine experience. One, which has been helpful during the pandemic, is being outdoors, specifically areas close to home.
“We have a place to help restore us right here on campus; we don’t have to go somewhere dramatic like Yellowstone,” said Reese Nelson, a professor in the Department of Applied Plant Sciences.
Students flock to the Ricks Gardens as the sun graces the grounds with its warmth and the cool winds drape a comfortable temperature to enjoy.
The Ricks Gardens have transformed during COVID-19 from just a beautiful location to a therapeutic one of respite and renewal.
“I think being in nature in general helps me with the pandemic,” said Audrey Linford, a junior studying horticulture. “For whatever reason it heals us, and for me personally I see the hand of God more when I’m in nature. When I’m out here, I can see how He created the world and gives me a sense of awe.”
As a school sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the students are often aware of God’s creations and how the world is orchestrated.
“The gardens are a special place on campus,” said Cameron van Batum, a freshman majoring in general studies and newcomer to the Ricks Gardens. “I think the Spirit is really strong here. Walking through campus can be loud sometimes, and I think being able to be outside here within the peace brings me a lot of comfort.”
Even though the weather is changing and temperatures are dropping, that doesn’t change the peace found in the Ricks Gardens as the semester progresses.
“Nearby nature can be taken advantage of in good weather days and bad weather days,” Nelson said. “There will be less people, no mosquitoes and all you have to do is add a layer or two.”
As the semester progresses, students continue to make their way to the Ricks Gardens to draw closer to God and better understand their studies.